Two weeks to the day after exiting the mound in the ninth inning with a right elbow injury, Orioles All-Star closer Félix Bautista played catch on the field before Friday night’s game at Fenway Park.
It was the second time Bautista played catch since he was placed on the 15-day injured list Aug. 26 with an injury to his ulnar collateral ligament, a day after he left a strike away from closing out a victory against the Colorado Rockies. Bautista also threw earlier this week during the team’s series at the Los Angeles Angels, manager Brandon Hyde said, but Hyde suggested that the sessions don’t dramatically change Bautista’s outlook, saying Bautista playing catch is “not really” significant.
“I wouldn’t put any emphasis, positive or negative,” Hyde said. “He was playing a little bit of catch. Just kind of see how he feels.
“I wouldn’t put any stock into it.”
After playing catch, Bautista walked, glove in hand, toward the left field corner at Fenway Park alongside head athletic trainer Brian Ebel. He then ran some sprints, typical cardio for pitchers after throwing.
The Orioles have not specified the ailment beyond executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias’ initial announcement that Bautista has an injury of “some degree” to the UCL, tears of which typically prompt Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, a procedure that would end Bautista’s season and cost him most if not all of 2024. But his ability to throw suggests the team is exploring whether it’s possible he returns to an Orioles team fighting for its first American League East title since 2014. Him doing so and being his typical self would also boost Baltimore’s hopes of a deep playoff run.
In 56 appearances before going on the IL, Bautista, a 28-year-old right-hander, recorded 33 saves with a 1.48 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 61 innings. He has not addressed his injury with reporters in the two weeks since suffering it.
In the past week, the Orioles have twice designated other pitchers for assignment, opening 40-man roster spots when transferring Bautista to the 60-day IL would do the same. But that transaction would also likely end his season, and as Friday showed, the possibility of a return, however faint, exists.
Around the horn
- Left-hander John Means, who is nearing a return from May 2022 Tommy John surgery, will throw a bullpen session Saturday at Fenway Park. “He’s going to be looked at by our medical staff, pitching coaches, and then we’ll go from there,” Hyde said.
- The Orioles ended utility player Terrin Vavra’s rehabilitation assignment so he could undergo further testing on his right shoulder injury. A member of Baltimore’s opening day roster, Vavra first went on the injured list with Triple-A Norfolk in June and played only two rehab games with Low-A Delmarva after joining the Shorebirds on Aug. 31.
- Norfolk infielder Joey Ortiz, who was removed from the Tides’ lineup with left oblique tight, is improving and is considered day to day.